Thursday, August 28, 2014
Judge Strips Stein of Ballot Designation
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Deputy City Attorney
ANDREW M. STEIN
Criminal Defense Attorney
Criminal defense attorney Andrew M. Stein, a candidate for Los Angeles Superior Court judge in the November election, cannot be listed on the ballot as a “Gang/Homicide Attorney,” or anything similar, because the designation is misleading, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell ruled yesterday.
The judge agreed with Deputy City Attorney Tom Griego, who finished a close second to Stein in the June primary—Deputy District Attorney Steven Schreiner came in third—and issued a writ of mandate barring the designation. The judge did not specify what designation will appear next to Stein’s name, but noted in her written decision that one of the alternative proposed designations on the ballot designation worksheet that Stein submitted to the registrar’s office was “Trial Attorney,” which the judge said was “not misleading.”
Stein’s attorney, Bradley W. Hertz of The Sutton Law Firm, asked the judge if Stein could use the alternative designation of “Criminal Trial Attorney,” but the judge said she could not rule on that issue because it was not presented in the parties’ papers. Deputy County Counsel Vicki Kozikoujekian told Hertz outside court after the hearing that the registrar could not list Stein as “Criminal Trial Attorney” because the designation was never submitted to him.
Hertz told the MetNews he would seek immediate relief in the Court of Appeal. Assistant Registrar-Recorder Mike Petrucello, in a declaration filed for yesterday’s hearing, said today is the last day that edits can be accepted before the ballot is sent to the printer.
Hertz argued that a “reasonably prudent voter” would understand that Stein is not a prosecutor, because the word “prosecutor” does not appear in the ballot designation, whereas Griego and the other 15 prosecutors running in contested races in the June primary all used that word in their titles.
The judge was unmoved, and fully adopted her tentative ruling at the end of the hearing.
“Although the designation ‘Gang/Homicide Attorney’ is undoubtedly literally accurate—Real Party is an attorney who handles gang and homicide trials…—the designation is provocatively selected to liken Real Party to various other criminal prosecutors who seek judgeships. The selection of the designation appears intended to create and will likely actually create confusion in the mind of reasonable voters by implying that Real Party is a criminal prosecutor like his opponents and not a defense attorney. The popular allure of the prosecutorial role amongst the reasonable voting populace is precisely why the designation of a neutral professional designation (‘attorney’ rather than ‘defender, for example) in conjunction with criminal activity (‘gang,’ ‘homicide,’ or ‘drug,’ for example) misleads the reasonable voter into the assumption that Real Party is a ‘prosecutor.’“
O’Donnell also rejected the argument that Griego waited too long to challenge the designation. She cited Petrucello’s declaration, and said that an Elections Code provision cited by Stein—requiring a candidate who wants to change a designation between the primary and general election to do so at least 98 days prior to Election Day—has no applicability to a challenge.
Griego was represented by Stephen J. Kaufman and George M. Yin of Kaufman Legal Group, APC.
The case is Griego v. Logan (Stein), BS150531.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company